A coalition of more than 60 humanitarian and human rights organizations
says widespread violence continues to threaten civilians in Eastern
Congo, despite a peace agreement signed six months ago. Derek Kilner
reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi.
the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo signed a peace
agreement with more than 20 armed factions operating in the country's
east to end fighting that had displaced more than one million people. The signatories agreed to a ceasefire and to protect human rights and
the civilian population.
But six months later, numerous militias are still operating and preying on civilians.
report by the Congo Advocacy Coalition, a group of 64 non-government
organizations that includes international groups like Oxfam and Human
Rights Watch as well as Congolese organizations, says that at least
150,000 more people have been displaced in Eastern Congo since the
January agreement. The groups also say more than 200 civilians have
been killed, and more than 200 ceasefire violations recorded in the
According to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the
Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, during the course of the past
six months, the number of ceasefire violations has dropped
considerably, and major clashes between the government and militias
have largely disappeared.
But spokesman Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, says this has not led to a drop in human rights violations.
though the incidents are decreasing, and their frequency is decreasing,
we keep observing that the situation of human rights and the
humanitarian situation are not really improving," she said. "We have
increased the access of the humanitarian actors on the ground. But
unfortunately we keep observing that the population is very worried and
too scared to go back to their village and their place of origin."
coalition says that women have been particularly vulnerable, with more
than 2,000 rapes reported in North Kivu province during the month of
The NGOs are calling for the government and the various
armed groups to act on their commitments to provide security for
civilians in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, near the
borders with Rwanda and Uganda. They are also urging the international
community to appoint a special advisor on human rights for the region.
coalition says humanitarian access has also been constrained by
insecurity, with nearly 40 attacks on aid workers this year. It says
the 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Eastern Congo are spread too thin.
Wildenberg agrees that the mission is stretched, but she says it is doing what it can with the troops available.
Eastern Congo is indeed a very huge territory," said Widenberg. "But
telling that we are under resourced, we will always be under resourced
because we will not ever be able to put one blue helmet behind every
single Congolese. So we have to work with what we have. We have now
approximately 10,000 troops for the two Kivus and we are trying to
do the best we can with what we have."
With the high profile
peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur region struggling to deploy even
half of its forces, an increase in troops for the Congo mission may not
Eastern Congo has been wracked by years of fighting
since Rwanda's ethnic conflict spilled across the border following that
country's 1994 genocide. Militias have also fought for control of the
area's natural resources, which include gold and coltan, a metallic ore
used to make batteries for mobile phones.